Motocross: Freak crash stalls Kiwi's race for world title

By Eric Thompson

Courtney Duncan has blazed her way into world motocross standings in her first year at the WMX championships. Photo / Andy McGechan
Courtney Duncan has blazed her way into world motocross standings in her first year at the WMX championships. Photo / Andy McGechan

It appears getting to the top of the world motocross totem pole involves a lot of hard yakka and a fair amount of pain for New Zealanders.

It is globally recognised that Kiwis have the mental fortitude and talent to play at the elite level of motocross, but are prone to hurting themselves.

Josh Coppins was leading the MX1 world championship when he injured his foot, which took him out of contention. Katherine Prumm was on top of the world after winning two FIM Women's world motocross titles until a training accident, where she broke her back, and ended her career.

The injury gremlins have struck again for yet another rising world motocross star, Otago's Courtney Duncan. The 20-year-old arrived at the opening round of the Women's World Motocross (WMX) championship in Qatar as a rookie and set the world alight by winning both races.

Duncan still had the title lead when the riders arrived in Germany (round three), where things came unstuck in the most bizarreway.

While challenging for the lead Duncan took off from a blind jump, only to see a photographer standing on the track as she was about to land. The resulting injury (torn ligaments between thumb and rest of hand) caused her to miss the rest of the event and the next two rounds.

"The woman wasn't standing there the first eight laps and I only had time to think 'what the heck' and it was all over," said Courtney.

"I'm coming along good now and I'm over halfway through the recovery and the pin gets removed soon. I'm annoyed about what happened and I can't change it, so I'm focusing on getting fit."

Duncan had been by far the best in the field, looking comfortable on unfamiliar tracks and racing against the best in the world. To have everything snatched away when looking a shoe-in for your first world title must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

"It's been frustrating but there have been some good parts to the year as well. I went into the championship knowing I had good support with Josh [Coppins] and the others; I had prepared well and had a good bike.

"I knew if I put my best foot forward, was smart and took it all in I'd be all right. Josh had raced there for 10 years and only a fool wouldn't listen to him," said Duncan.

The injury is healing well and her surgeon is happy with the prognosis and Duncan is excited at the prospect of getting back to Europe for the last two rounds of the 2016 championship in Switzerland (August 7) and the Netherlands (August 28).

"The challenges [racing internationally] have been tough. It helped that I raced against the men in New Zealand and that preparation was perfect.

"Everything is so different in Europe but you just have to deal with it. I was getting better with the more time I spent overseas and heading back soon will the best thing for me. I know where I sit now, how things work over there and what the competition is like.

"Hopefully I can get back into where I left off and get some more wins," she said.

Her ability to overcome such a setback is a testament to her maturity, professionalism and innate understanding that sport is a fickle mistress. Also, having former world MX1 number two in your corner helps as well.

Coppins realised early on that Courtney had the talent and drive to succeed at the highest level and isn't overly surprised she's managed to make the motocross world pay attention to her precocious talent.

"At the moment we're motivating her and giving her goals to look forward to, rather than looking back at what could have been," said Coppins.

"We want to go out on a high so we're doing the last two rounds. Honestly - Switzerland will be a push for her as she'll be far from fit. Can she win? Probably.

"I'm not being biased but she is the best, and going back for the final rounds showing people what she can do will set her up well for contract negotiations for next year."

This year has been hard for Duncan as the deal came together really quickly and everyone has been reacting rather than planning strategically. Next season however, will no doubt be different.

- NZ Herald

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